Festival Hot Seat: Rear View
David Wheeler, artistic director of Halifax-based IOU theatre tells us about Rear View and working on the show with performance poets Jemima Foxtrot and Cecilia Knapp.
Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
The central idea is that the audience is lead around the town by a young woman visiting special places in her future life. We begin in an art class when she is in her sixties and we hear her thoughts as they are gradually taken over by her younger self. She then takes us out of the art class and onto IOU’s specially made open-top bus and we are taken on her journey. Everything in a sense is in the future, there is ambiguity about whether we are looking back or looking forward. An important part of the concept is that it is imagined and written from the perspective of a young women at the beginning of her adult life.
How and where will the work be staged?
Rear View starts on The Barge at Brighton Marina where the art class scene takes place and then the audience boards the Rear View bus for a journey around Brighton. Cecilia and Jemima have each written their own version of the show and the performances alternate between them, so as one group of audience board the bus, the next group begins the art class. The locations visited on the journey remain the same each time, but Cecilia’s and Jemima’s words were written independently by them and their performances are very different and personal to them.
Why should someone come and see your show?
The show presents an unusual and affecting premise for audiences to experience. The drawing class gently starts the process of looking and observing so that when the audience begins the bus journey around the town they are in a slightly altered state and more intimately connected to the woman’s character.
Travelling through the real world listening to the words and soundscape through headphones, cocooned in a heightened sound world, creates a very immersive feeling. The small details of everyday life of people in the real world going about their daily business magically become integrated into the poetry of the words. The combination is quite moving and contemplative and at the same time it is an exhilarating experience travelling around on the very conspicuous backward-facing bus.
Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
The words and poetry come from Cecilia’s and Jemima’s own experiences and imagination set in the context that we have created for them. IOU has always tried to make the experience for an audience surprising and unusual, putting on work in places where people don’t normally see theatre and often moving them around on mass between scenes. The bus is an obvious solution to all those years of complex logistics and risk assessments. But most of all, it is a vehicle that everyone wants to ride on!
Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
Because it is a story I think many of us are constantly having with ourselves already. We have an inner dialogue going on that tries to place us in time and place, thinking about what has just happened and what might happen next, planning and abandoning plans, being diverted and thinking, “is it that time already?”
The show takes us along streets and roads that may have been here for hundreds of years, past buildings that have had generation after generation take possession. The show heightens our sense of how fleetingly we occupy these spaces and places, but the experience is life affirming and people often say how much it meant to them and how well it described their own life in the town.
What’s going to surprise people about this show?
What surprises me each time I see the show is how beautifully the real world mixes with the imagined world that Cecilia’s and Jemima’s words create.
What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Brighton has always been a favourite festival for us and the first of many shows we performed here was TOWERS in 1977. Does anyone still have any photos?! Perhaps my favourite moment was in a night time show seeing Steve Gumbley walking out to sea wearing very large inflatable trousers, bobbing out to sea standing bolt upright like a fishing cork and disappearing into the darkness.
What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
Gob Squad, Creation (Pictures for Dorian). I love their calm audacity; long may they reign!